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Mercy triumphs over judgment

Published at: 21/08

Also available in fr

The Coming Judgment Against Israel’s Leaders

Isaiah 57: 3-9 Evangelical Heritage Version

3 But you there, come closer, you children of a witch, you offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute. Who are you mocking? Who are you making faces at and sticking out your tongue at? Aren’t you all children born in rebellion, the offspring of deceit, you who are in heat among the oaks and under every green tree,you who slaughter children in the ravines under the rugged cliffs? Your chosen territory is among the smooth stones of the ravines. They, yes, they, are your lot. You even poured out a drink offering to them, and you offered up a grain offering. Since you have done these things, should I spare you? Upon a mountain, high and lofty, you spread out your bed. Yes, you went up there to offer a sacrifice. Behind the door and doorpost you placed your memorial. Yes, you deserted me and uncovered yourself. You climbed right into bed. You made room for them in your bed. You committed yourself to them. You loved their bed. You stared at their bodies. You traveled to deliver offerings of fragrant oil to the king, and you made many offerings of incense. You sent your messengers to a distant land. You sent them as far as hell.

I read these verses as part of my daily reading this week and in truth I did not understand what it was really saying. I have learnt that a difficult passage of Scripture is usually conveying an important treasure for those who have the diligence to dig it out.

In Isaiah 56: 1-2 God has declared though his prophet Isaiah that his salvation is coming soon.

56 This is what the Lord says. Protect justice, and carry out righteousness, because my salvation is coming very soon. My righteousness is ready to be revealed. How blessed is everyone who does this, who grabs hold of it,

The context is a series of denunciations against the leaders of Israel. Isaiah lived in Judah between 740 BC and 686 BC. He makes some prophesies concerning Messiah that are so accurate in describing aspects of the life and death of Jesus that many Jewish leaders forbid Jews from reading it. The forbidden chapter

Archaeological evidence for Isaiah at time of King Hezekiah Tradition has it that Isaiah's father was the brother of king Amaziah.

If 700 years was very soon for the first coming to earth of Jesus then we should not be too surprised that we wait 2000 years for his return (see John 14 and many more references).

In Isaiah 9, the same chapter where verse 6 declares:

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this

follows with a harsh pronouncement of judgment against Israel (the northern kingdom)

Isaiah 9

But the Lord raises the adversaries of Rezin against him, and stirs up his enemies. 12 The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

13 The people did not turn to him who struck them, nor inquire of the Lord of hosts. 14 So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed in one day— 15 the elder and honored man is the head, and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail; 16 for those who guide this people have been leading them astray, and those who are guided by them are swallowed up. 17 Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over their young men, and has no compassion on their fatherless and widows; for everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

Here we see a judgment against Israel with no compassion because God's anger has been stirred up.
It would seem judgment triumphs over mercy in terms of how God deals with the people of Israel.

Why was God angry? Isaiah 57:9

Isaiah 57:9 Good News Translation

You put on your perfumes and ointments and go to worship the god Molech. To find gods to worship, you send messengers far and wide, even to the world of the dead.

It seems the verse contains the word for king and Molech see comparative translations for this verse

Moloch’s name derives from the Hebrew word mlk, which usually stands for melek, or “king.” Note that ancient Hebrew had no vowels so a vowel can be interposed for meaning.

Commentaries Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

To the king; either to Moloch, which was as it were the king or chief of their idols, and which signifies a king. Or to the great king of Assyria, called the king by way of eminency, to whom the Israelites in the days of Isaiah were very prone to seek, and trust, and send presents. Although the word king may be here taken collectively for the kings of Assyria or Egypt, or any other king, from whom they desired or expected help in their straits. And so the prophet passeth here from their idolatry to another sin, even to their carnal confidence in heathen princes, for which they are oft severely reproved; although these two sins were commonly joined together, and they easily received idolatry from those kings whose help they desired.

Who was Moloch?

Moloch was the god of the Canaanites or Phoenicians who colonised areas of the Mediterranean such as Carthage and introduced their worship of Moloch. Moloch was a god believed to control the weather, important for sea faring people, and of fertility of crops. He was depicted as a bronze image with a bull's head and man's body. Moloch was known for the sacrifice of children by boiling alive.

The Minoan Minotaur has many common aspects with Moloch. Minotaur of Crete

An interesting line of study would be to trace any link between religious belief from the Sumerians, Akkadians, Gutians, Assyrians through to later civilisations such as Minoan, Mycenaean, Egyptian, Phonecian, Nabotean. The bull was revered for its strength to pull the plough and establish cereal crops, the basis of civilisation. In addition the moon was critical to understanding seasons for planting and harvesting. This fertility and wealth creation system meant that by conflating the horns of the bull with the moon crescent probably a system of worship began by those with special knowledge of these things and so was created a priestly class. Gods of Sumeria

Fake religion - the devil's plan

Worship of Moloch prohibited in Law of Moses

Leviticus 20 Prohibiting Child Sacrifice

0 The Lord spoke to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelis that when an Israeli or a resident alien who lives in Israel offers his child to Molech, he is certainly to be put to death. The people who live in the land are to stone him with stones

Bull god found at Bethsaida dated 740BC

Bloodshed for forgivess of sins

The Law of Moses (Torah) was a system of civil justice where:

  • a wrong was made right by compensation
  • in the case of criminal acts where compensation was not possible, punishment was imposed at a proportionate level

In addition the Torah prescribed for the people of Israel a covenant with their God that was to identify and distinguish them from other nations. Failure to keep this covenant was dealt with severely because the people needed to be reminded of how seriously God regarded this covenant.

The central part of the covenant was the shedding of blood for forgiveness of sins

Shedding of blood for forgiveness

Hebrews 9: 22

22 In fact, more or less everything is purified with blood according to the law; there’s no pardon without bloodshed!

The BIG Problem

There was a big problem with the Torah.

  • The people of Israel could not abide by it

Jeremiah 17:9-10 The Message

“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind. I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.”

1 Samuel 15: 22 English Standard Version

And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

The people of Israel thought that by trying to obey the letter of the law they might please God.

However, an even bigger problem was that the blood of bulls and goats could never deal with the fundamental problem

  • humanity was in slavery to sin

Hebrews 10:4 Living Bible

4 For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats really to take away sins.

Hebrews 10:4 The blood of bulls and goats merely covered over the sins, taking them out of sight for hundreds of years until Jesus Christ came to die on the cross. There he gave his own blood which forever took those sins away

A Better Sacrifice

Romans 6 NIV

16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Humanity had become slaves to the devil and sin. The devil, as the owner of human slaves, demanded of God a price that was so high that he thought God would be unwilling to pay it. The devil asked for the death of the Son of God as compensation for releasing his slaves. God took up the bargain at Calvary. Judgment was satisfied by a substitute taking the blame in an act of mercy.

Isaiah prophesied in great detail about this in Isaiah 53 (CEV)

He was hated and rejected by people. He had much pain and suffering. People would not even look at him. He was hated, and we didn’t even notice him. But he took our suffering on him and felt our pain for us. We saw his suffering and thought God was punishing him. But he was wounded for the wrong we did; he was crushed for the evil we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to him, and we are healed because of his wounds. 6 We all have wandered away like sheep; each of us has gone his own way. But the Lord has put on him the punishment for all the evil we have done. 7 He was beaten down and punished, but he didn’t say a word. He was like a lamb being led to be killed. He was quiet, as a sheep is quiet while its wool is being cut; he never opened his mouth. 8 Men took him away roughly and unfairly. He died without children to continue his family. He was put to death; he was punished for the sins of my people. He was buried with wicked men, and he died with the rich. He had done nothing wrong and he had never lied. 10 But it was the Lord who decided to crush him and make him suffer. The Lord made his life a penalty offering, but he will still see his descendants and live a long life. He will complete the things the Lord wants him to do.

God realised that mankind would never be able to save itself. Mankind is prone to evil. Given a planet to live on, mankind will pollute and destroy it and think that by going to another planet they can start again. God's plan is to break the power of sin in the human heart and start a new beginning in the life of each person, one by one.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Images for this article by Lance Grandahl and Hans Ripa on Unsplash.com